National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW
2nd Floor, Objects of Wonder exhibition Floor Plan
The museum displays volume four in the Duke of Portland set of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America: from Original Drawings. Featured in the Objects of Wonder: From the Collection of the National Museum of Natural History exhibition, Birds of America offers visitors a portal into the natural world through more than 100 life-size, hand-colored illustrations of North American birds. The volume is on loan from an anonymous lender and is on public view for one year during which the pages will be turned every Monday and Thursday to reveal different birds.
Printed between 1827 and 1838, Birds of America is the result of Audubon’s effort to illustrate every known bird in North America. Within its aptly-named "double-elephant" sized pages, Birds of America was printed on handmade paper measuring more than three feet in height. Due to high costs associated with printing life-size illustrations, Audubon sold subscriptions to his work. He issued plates in sets that included one large, one medium and several small birds. Nearly 200 years later, Birds of America remains an archetype of natural history illustration.